In the summertime Smith Mountain Lake is a great place for collecting Vitamin D, as there are many ways to have fun in the sun on our beautiful lake. Most of us have heard that exposing at least the face and arms to the sun for 15minutes 3 or 4 times a week will allow our bodies to convert those rays into sufficient amounts of Vit. D. But what about during the cooler weather when we are not outdoors as much? And what is Vit. D necessary for anyway?
The truth is that Vit. D is essential for everyone. It is necessary for normal bone growth, immune function, healthy teeth, good sleep, protection against weakened muscles, and keeping the heartbeat regulated. It helps to prevent osteoporosis, is used to keep the thyroid functioning properly and the blood clotting normally, and can play a large part in mood and depression, just to name a few of it’s benefits.
In a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, 57% of the study group had below normal levels of Vitamin D. These were people who did not have any particular risk of vitamin D deficiency (such as you might expect in someone housebound). So how can we be sure we are getting proper amounts of this vitamin?
Studies have shown that we need a minimum of 1,000 – 2,000 International Units (IU) of Vitamin D per day, from all sources. This is easy to achieve if you spend ten minutes a day in the sun. But it’s very difficult to get from your diet alone. Many people think that fortified foods, such as milk are good sources of Vitamin D, but you would have to drink 20 glasses of milk a day to absorb enough Vitamin D. (By the way, Vit. D3 is considered the most natural of the types of supplemental D.)
Perhaps one of the better (and more concentrated) food source of Vitamin D is cod liver oil. One tablespoon contains about 1,000 to 1,400 IU. It is also a good source of beneficial omega-3 essential fatty acids. Other foods which contain lesser amounts of Vitamin D are eggs, dandelion greens, salmon, halibut, sardines, liver, sweet potatoes, and a few herbs such as alfalfa and horsetail. (Some things that can interfere with your absorption of Vit. D are liver and gallbladder disorders, cholesterol lowering drugs, antacids, mineral oil, steroids and some diuretics.)
So if you are a fan of moderate amounts of sun as you enjoy Smith Mountain Lake living, you are likely getting plenty of this important vitamin in the summer months. But be sure and check your intake during the shorter days of the year if you want to feel your best.